Tortuga Music Festival

Hank Williams Jr: Not a day goes by when I don’t think of my father

Terry Wyatt / Getty Images

Hank Williams Jr. has some pretty big cowboy boots to fill, and yep, the singer, whose dear old dad was country legend Hank Williams, is doing just that. The 64-year-old multi-instrumentalist and avid hunter/fisherman from Shreveport, La., will do a few, sure to be unforgettable, oceanside sets at the Tortuga Music Festival, 5:30-6:30 p.m. Saturday at Fort Lauderdale Beach Park. We spoke to Williams, who has a home in Apalachicola.

How young were you when you realized you wanted to follow in your father’s footsteps?

Well, I grew up around music. Daddy was the original rock star, country star, Western singer. You name it, Daddy was known for it. So when I was 3 and Daddy died, everyone from Fats Domino, Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis and so many others were at our house. They taught me how to play piano, banjo, guitar, fiddle and every other instrument that was lying around the house. So I knew nothing else.

What is your songwriting process like?

For years, I would keep a notepad around, and anytime I got an idea, I would write it down. Sometimes I would go back to that idea and finish the song, or I wouldn’t. Sometimes the songs would come to me and I could write them in minutes. Songwriting just happens for me. Nowadays, I don’t understand it when I hear people say, ‘Well, I have a writing appointment at 2 p.m.’ I’m thinking, ‘What the hell is that about?’ You can’t just pick a time and think you are going to be creative. So I don’t do much co-writing with anyone, and I really only write songs that appeal to what is going on in my career or life at the time.

What can readers expect from your show?

Our shows change from time to time, but you can expect to hear me play some fiddle, get down on that guitar, pound on the keys of the piano and sit back and play about 30 minutes of an acoustic set. We play lots of the hits, some new songs and some covers. I never hear people leaving saying they weren’t entertained or they didn’t enjoy the show. So I try and give the fans what they ask for.

If you weren't a musician, what else would you be doing?

I have never had to think about what else I would be doing, so I really don’t know. Be a hunting guide and have Hank’s Guide Service?

How much does your father's music influence you today?

There is not a day that goes by that I don’t think of Daddy’s music. Whether it’s a fan of mine, a fan of Daddy’s or another musician, I always get told how much his music has influenced them or how they can relate to a song. Daddy died at 29 [of heart failure] and had a lot of living to do. Unfortunately, the rest of the world didn’t get to experience that magic that he was creating. So since those hits and his music continue to live on, not only am I, but so many others are influenced by what he created.

Is there someone you'd like to collaborate with in the future?

Not really! Other artists want to collaborate with me, but I don’t go out listening to radio to see who I can do something with. Just not me.

Are you influenced by any new artists?

Hell no!

What kind of tunes are you enjoying lately?

I love all kinds of music. I love ZZ Top, Skynyrd, BB King, Eric Church, Gregg Allman, Brad Paisley, Kid Rock, Kracker and many more. I don’t have musical boundaries.

If you could only listen to one song for the rest of your life, which would it be?

I wouldn’t allow that to happen. I am too creative; that one song would not be enough.

Madeleine Marr


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